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From Tragedy to Triumph: How can philanthropy and volunteering help my child cope with tragic world events?

By By Carol Weisman
From , F.E. Robbins & Sons Press, 2006

When a tragic event takes place, what is the first thing I should do to help my child deal with it? 

After you’ve all watched and absorbed the news footage, turn off the TV. Children can get very overwhelmed by sad or frightening messages with no plan for action. Ask your child, “What do you think of that?” And then really listen to the answer. When something like the tsunami or Hurricane Katrina happens, children often think they’re at risk, too…After your child realizes that he or she isn’t in any danger, explain the ways in which your family may already be helping. You might support certain organizations that help disaster victims, like Catholic Charities or the Red Cross. Or, your mosque or religious organization may have a branch in the affected region that is on the ground helping immediately. This does two things. It reassures the child that if he or she were ever endangered or helpless in any way, help would be available. It also educates the child about where past gifts have gone, and how donations really do make a difference.

How do I help my child when he or she comes up with a plan to aid or raise money for others?

Start small and plan accordingly. Make sure your kid’s project has a clear beginning, middle and end appropriate to his or her attention span…A good way to keep things small is to think about parallel projects your kids can handle. For example, after 9/11, hearts around the world went out to the New York City firefighters who perished, as well as to the families they left behind. All across America, parents and kids talked about the firefighters in their own communities and the sacrifices they make—which provided an opportunity to bake some cookies and head down to the local firehouse to say, “Thank you for your willingness to keep us safe!” Baking cookies and bringing them to the firehouse is a two-hour project at most. You don’t need to form a non-profit corporation in order to give your children an outlet for channeling their thoughts and concerns. You don’t have to raise a million dollars, and you don’t have to get on Oprah. All it takes is one adult, one child, a little flour and some chocolate chips to teach a valuable lesson— and to help your child feel a little less powerless.

Raising Charitable Children

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